Marriage Equality: “Nothing changed, everything changed”

Emily McGaughty describes in “Nothing Changed, Everything Changed: How Marriage Equality Strengthened my Marriage” how the recent Supreme Court ruling in many ways was unimpactful for her and her “partner” (the two considered themselves married after having had an unofficial wedding in 2013). Long before their 2013 ceremony, the two had felt all the gravity of a lifetime commitment, so the “heart and soul” of their relationship didn’t change with the ruling. But their decision to get legally married the day of the decision changed their lives in many legal ways, including tax and insurance benefits. Though it’s wonderful that they and all gay couples can now be legally married, it is problematic that the state must still put a stamp of approval on human relationships to determine which ones are suitable for exclusive benefits. Nancy Polikoff proposes rectifying this issue through “valuing all families,” a clever twist on the “family values” espoused by conservatives. Generally, gay marriage advocates “[did] not say that “special rights” should be reserved for those who marry” (p. 7). Although gay marriage has since been legalized, the problem still remains that not all family structures do or should include marriage, and it is exclusive and socially-unhealthy to discriminate against unmarried couples and families when providing certain benefits. Were marriage not the only path to certain important rights, its importance would diminish, and valuing all families would occur.